I don’t think James ever knew this, but someone I know wrote a short story about him. Its written by a man called Des Dillon, a well known Scottish writer, who is the son of Alice one of the housekeepers here at the church. It’s a very respectful story of James and was much spoken about when the book came out. Alice struck up a great friendship with James, she would come every Thursday and sure enough James would appear that day, as regular as clockwork. She would feed him and he would regale her with tall tales. The story is about of his visit to Alice here at the church, but the story captures a few aspects of James’ personality, his ability to make friends quickly with anyone, his warmth of character and his desire to be very helpful. I will leave you to find that story and to read it for yourself.
I don’t think James every knew this, that someone had written a story about him. I am sure he would have been very surprised if he had, in his sadder and darker moments he didn’t think too highly of himself. The twists and turns of life had not been good for him. Although he didn’t feel too good about himself, friends and family still felt the same about him, those near and far from him over the years kept a watchful eye out for him.
James has died at the relatively young age of 49. In truth at times over the years you would not have thought he would lived a long life, he sailed close to the wind. He had grown physically very week at times and at times you would have thought a strong wind could easily have blown him away. But he had that quality of the long distance runner, he kept going even when his health was not good, bounced back when it seemed he couldn’t, kept going when it seemed impossible. In recent years he stayed in Bothwell where he met new friends and was very well looked after by Paul Lyndsay and Janet Hepburn. These last years of his life were good ones, he was safe and secure and well looked after.
I noticed on the booklet for the funeral a picture of James on his First Holy Communion day. It is the picture of a young boy as happy as any other on his First Holy Communion day in his school uniform at St Charles’ Newton. On that day our Lord promised to be with him every day of his life. It was a promise that he didn’t take back, through the ups and downs and twist and turns of James’ life the Lord was there. On sunny days and in days in which, like the people in the Gospel, stormy days and in days in which it seemed the boat would turn over, he was there. In the Gospel Jesus calms the storm, rebukes the wind brought, it was calm again. That little boy in the picture might have stormy seas ahead to face, might have been knocked of course by strong winds, but the Lord was in the same boat with him, not far and often he would calm the storms and bring him back to dry land. The waves might seem at times to be in danger of sinking the boat but always the Lord seemed to calm those high waves and those strong waves and bring calm.
James was brought up in Westburn. He was born in 1966, his parents were Jean and Pat. He had a young sister Patricia who I think all her life looked out for James, she might have been his wee sister but acted often as his big sister watching out for him all her life, worrying over him, looking out for him, never going to sleep without wondering where he was and if he was safe. if this was a task given to her all her life and especially after the death of their parents, Tricia didn’t turn away from the task, it was seen right through to the end.
He attended as youngster St Charles school. He wasn’t a straight A pupil you would say, his name wasn’t on any boards of merit but he had the often repeated phrase on his report card – likeable rogue – not sure you would get away with that today. He went onto Trinity High School. He wasn’t employed a lot in life but did work as a gardener at Cambuslang Golf Course and helped his father as a gardener handyman at Lochbrae Court. He was always blessed with a likeable and friendly nature and was known in these jobs as helpful, good natured and always had a desire to please.
As well as liking the outdoor life he liked animals of any descriptions, dogs, cats, birds and so on. He was one of those boys that would bring strays home. One day he even brought 2 horses from a nearby field home to Westburn and tried to bring them into the family’s living room. Needless to say it didn’t go down well with his mum and dad. In forceful terms they persuaded him that the horses had to be returned, their place was not in their living room but in the field.
Throughout his life James had trouble with all sorts of addictions. We have to say that these addictions brought him low, causing him to slide down in life, on a track that seemed impossible for him to get off. These took many things from him and broke him physically and mentally. But even to the end, he retained his cheerfulness and his pawkish sense of humour. He was to find many people who would help him throughout his life thsat would try to catch him, stop him from falling right down. Just like the Lord he had his Simons to help him carry the cross, along the road James found many to help him and offer a helping hand. Friends who were his friends from early days remained his friends and kept a watchful eye out for him.
He used to often ask me for his bus fares. When occasionally I would tell him I didn’t have any money with me, his refrain would be nae bother…until the next time, it never put him off. He often claimed that he was going for the bus, he needed to get into town.
Today he is also on a journey, a much bigger journey. He doesn’t need any money for this journey, but strangely has returned here to me and you to help him on his way. Not to lend him any money but to accompany him with our prayers. Like so often in his past life we generously offer him this helping hand to get him where he wants to go.
We are sure that such people as James are closest to the Lord in ways that we cannot know. Often it was no to the well he came but to those who broken. He chose not to sit down not with those who were rich but to those who were poor. He didn’t find himself among those who were seen as wise but chose to be among the simple. He often said those who were last shall be first, those who were at the bottom would be at the top.
He will be first through the gates and many of us will be a long way down the line – for its to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.
We are glad you are now at peace James, after the travails of your life. We are glad you are safe and home and people are not afraid for your safety or where you might be in place of danger. Peace to you James at the end of your life. Peace to you after years struggle and turmoil . Peace to you at the end of the road. Peace to you after the tortures and difficulties of life. Peace and blessing on you as your life is transformed by the glory and love of God.